Report by Eric Salama (below) Chairman and chief executive officer
If 2011 reminded us of anything, it was the importance of the Big Idea. From the Arab Spring to the Royal Wedding to the legacy of Steve Jobs, we were surrounded by examples of big ideas that inspired people. And, in our own way, our industry is going through its own Spring as clients reassess the role of data and insights and explore ways in which they can be used to revolutionise business, drive revenue growth and optimise spending.
The need for big ideas that influence deep-seated change within our industry was eloquently expressed by Joe Tripodi, chief marketing and commercial officer of The Coca-Cola Company, when he told his audience of planners, researchers and clients at the ARF Conference that, “If you don’t like change, you are going to like irrelevance even less.”
The need for consumer understanding has increased, and not just in fast-growing markets where market access strategies are key. The need for actionable insights has not changed. Nor has the importance of having talented people: researchers who can understand and predict human behaviour, storytellers who can inspire an audience, client service people who can join up the dots and operational people who can improve data quality and drive efficiencies. But the ferocity of competition, the importance of speed in decision-making and the explosion of data – often referred to as ‘Big Data’ – has led many clients to ‘zero base’ their insight plans and examine what data and insights they really need to drive their business and how they should be partnering with agencies. Bob McDonald, CEO of Procter & Gamble, said recently in McKinsey Quarterly: “We’ve been working with all our data partners to help them understand that our need is for real-time data.”
It is against this backdrop – our own Insight Spring – that we assess our business and plan our strategy and try to get the balance right between incremental and radical change.
The end we continue to seek is actionable joined-up insights, told in creative ways that inspire our clients to act; and real-time quality data which can be used to make good business decisions fast. Our means lie in innovating and in collaborating, within Kantar and WPP and with external partners. Our goal is a mix of incremental and radical innovation in our offer and approach. Against this backdrop, how did we do in 2011? Maybe it’s easiest to see it through two of the lenses that are most critical to our clients: data and China.
The end we continue to seek is actionable joined-up insights, told in creative ways that inspire our clients to act; and real-time quality data which can be used to make good business decisions fast
Much of our work and success is hidden and client-confidential. But there are some areas where the combination of innovation, imagination, talent, collaboration and perseverance resulted in the winning of highly-visible long-term contracts. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the media measurement space, where Kantar Media won the TV audience (TAM) contracts in UAE (new), Turkey (from Nielsen), Romania (from Gfk) and Switzerland (from Gfk). In addition, a joint Kantar Media and Kantar Worldpanel team was at the heart of our winning Google’s cross-media panel in the UK, an ambitious cross-platform world first. Combined with the winning of a host of media measurement contracts in Scandinavia (e.g. magazines in Norway from Ipsos and radio in Sweden), the use of virtual meter technology in pilots in the UK and Singapore, the roll-out of our return-path-data capabilities in new markets such as India and China (in addition to leadership in the US market which has resulted in a partnership with Nielsen) and the roll-out of Kantar Media Compete panels into the UK and France, we have had a tremendous year and are laying the ground for long-term success.
However, our ambition is not just to measure the new world of multiple screens better than anyone else and deliver that data fast: we want to connect the data to other data sources to provide stories and the basis for action. Our Kantar Retail Shopcom, Kantar Worldpanel and Kantar Media teams have combined to provide clients with returns on investment (ROI) based on the relation between media consumption and purchase in markets as diverse as the US, Spain, France, the UK, Brazil and China – not inferred links or survey-based hypotheses but direct “you watched x, you bought y.” And those teams are not happy with just providing the data for learning purposes. They now profile digital consumer segments and work with colleagues at GroupM and Wunderman to allow them to target media at those segments through products such as MMatch. In the space of a year we have gone from being able to understand who is watching TV on a second-by-second basis, or monitoring how they surf the web, to being able to predict what purchases they will make to help media and CRM agencies target people on the basis of behaviour.
And it is no longer an exception now to see datastreams joined up so that clients can, for example, get the benefits of The Futures Company’s Global Monitor segmentation in TNS’s Digital Life, or Needscope segmentation from TNS included in Millward Brown Link studies.
Key to all of this is a culture of sharing and connecting and putting the clients’ interest first, and a focus on capturing high-quality survey data and developing behavioural data sources. The latter are extensive and growing.
We have launched mobile passive behavioural measurement panels in seven markets with plans to roll out to a further 15 this year; our KTags track seven billion digital display, mobile and video impressions every day; we process 20 million new posts and articles on a daily basis aggregating content from over 20 million blogs and 40,000 news sites; we track product-level purchase data on 200 million consumers in the US and in an even deeper way through our consumer panels in most other important markets around the world (including our newly-launched panel in Indonesia).
In parallel, we are redefining survey research and innovating to deliver higher quality, cheaper, more relevant quantitative survey research.
- Kantar Operations is working with TNS and Millward Brown to roll out ISO 20252 as the basis for high-quality data collection while Lightspeed Research’s partnership with TrueSample is raising standards in online data collection.
- TNS has developed an innovative approach to phone-based data collection which reduces costs by 20% and was the basis for the award of the multi-year Eurobarometer work by the EU.
- The InTouch team is developing highly interactive and more visual ways of conducting surveys which are designed to improve the consumer experience and be more in tune with the world that our consumers inhabit.
- Our partnership with Lumi is being used extensively to capture attitudes through mobile devices at the point at which certain behaviours are displayed.
- Our partnership with Affectiva enables us to capture and interpret facial expressions through simple camera technology, a solution which is scalable to every part of the world and which is being used extensively by Millward Brown to get a deeper insight into the way that consumers respond to advertising.
- Our acquisition of GMI during the year has given the enlarged Lightspeed access to panellists in 38 markets including new ones in Latin America and India with whom we can engage for our surveys.
- Millward Brown has launched Fan Index to help clients understand the value of Facebook fans to them and Ad Index Dash as a tool to measure online advertising effectiveness with quick turnaround.
- Kantar Health has extended its National Health & Wellness Survey into Brazil, allowing pharma and other health-oriented companies to understand in detail the health status attitudes and outcomes in all key markets around the world.
Some of what is touched on above is about data that can be actioned, often in real time with no human intervention. But as the amount of data explodes so does the need to make more sense of that data, to explore it holistically and find those nuggets of insights which can give a client a competitive edge. In turn, our ambition of inspiring clients to act requires an ability to tell compelling stories about those insights.
As the amount of data explodes so does the need to make more sense of that data, to explore it holistically and find those nuggets of insights which can give a client a competitive edge
Some of this focus on storytelling is reflected on a renewed emphasis that we are putting on qualitative work, work which gets to the deepest human emotions in a way that no quantitative work can. The Futures Company and Added Value have historically had qualitative work at the very heart of their approaches. But the likes of Millward Brown, TNS and Kantar Health have been investing heavily in the past year in talented people and technologies to help those people dig deep into human attitudes and behaviour. Nor is it surprising that some of our best new recruits this year, people who are world-class experts in their own right – people like Jannie Hofmeyr at TNS in the area of tracking, Susan Suponcic at Kantar Health in the area of market access and Bernardo Geoghegan at The Futures Company in Latin America – are natural storytellers who can inspire their audiences.
But the world has discovered that it’s not just people who can tell stories, but data can too! The world of data visualisation has blossomed and we are proud to have partnered with David McCandless, the recognised guru in the field. With David we have established the global, open-to-all Information is Beautiful Awards and begun to train our people and to establish a roster of creative talent around the world. Thankfully, examples are everywhere to see. Millward Brown (with Link copy testing), Added Value (with their tracking i3.0), Worldpanel (grocery data) and TNS (with Digital Life, TRI*M stakeholder) have revamped their deliverables in highly-creative ways.
We often talk about our capabilities globally but local capability continues to be as important as ever. What do we look like to clients (global, local, Chinese multinationals) in the market that many of them are most focused on – China?
From a capability point of view we look strong. TNS, Millward Brown, Added Value, Kantar Retail and Kantar Health have thriving businesses in the region: Kantar Media is the provider of all audience measurement services (through our joint venture with CCTV) while Kantar Worldpanel has invested heavily to revamp its purchase panel, which is now the sole provider locally through a state-of-the-art 40,000 electronic panel. And in 2012, Kantar Worldpanel has launched a media ROI solution to help clients understand the impact that different kinds of media consumption have on purchase patterns, and Kantar Media completed the purchase of CIC, China’s leading online monitoring agency. Chinese clients, no less than any others, have a growing need for the real-time monitoring of consumer brand conversations on their equivalent social media networks such as Renren and Sina Weibo, and CIC operates a team of over 60 consultants doing precisely that. Individually these offers are strong, together they are unmatched.
We are as proud of our thought leadership as we are of our capabilities. Millward Brown’s Chinese BrandZTM study has become required reading for anyone interested in which brands are growing in the market and why Kantar Retail set up its iQ service in China to study retailers continuously and released its inaugural PoweRanking for China retail industry last month. Western-controlled manufacturers P&G and Unilever, and retailers Walmart and RT-Mart, have all performed well in key indicators but interestingly the survey also reports that Chinese- and Asian-based retailers accounted for five of the top-10 ranked retailers, demonstrating the progress that local Asian companies are making in the industry. Added Value and Millward Brown combined with WPP’s global retail practice, The Store, to launch the Chinese New Year Report with an in-depth analysis of Chinese consumers; while TNS, The Futures Company and Kantar Health had a focus on China in their global Digital Life, Monitor and NHWS services respectively.
And finally, talent – the biggest issue facing the industry and our clients in China. The vast majority of our staff is local but the industry is not as mature as it is in other parts of the world. We are committed to an extensive training program, designed to help people develop the skills needed to service global clients to the standards they are used to. And we are ambitious in taking an industry leadership position in growing the available pool of talent. In 2011, we set up a Kantar-wide graduate program aimed at recruiting and training hundreds of people a year. Our ‘Class of 2011’ launched the scheme with the hire of 60 graduates working across our businesses in China and our ‘Class of 2012’ follows this year. The graduates participate in the two-year development program which is supported by our customers and senior management.
We can never do enough in China, but the range of our capabilities is unmatched. And we are fiercely ambitious to continue to innovate and develop.
As we said earlier, our industry is not one with Cannes-like visibility. But there are awards and our people and companies have been well represented again this year. Millward Brown was part of the winning team on six Ogilvy Awards at the ARF for client work on Domino’s, Kotex, Coca-Cola, Chase, Cadbury and Cracker Barrel; IMRB won Agency of the Year in India for the fifth time; Kantar Worldpanel and Added Value were in The Sunday Times UK Top 100 employers, while numerous people including Kantar Health CEO Lynnette Cooke and Lightspeed/GMI’s Jon Puleston were awarded prestigious personal industry awards.
And recognition can come from within too. We fulfilled our fundraising commitment to UNICEF and to the programs we sponsor in Bolivia, Malawi and Bangladesh two years early as we raised money from across Kantar in a variety of imaginative and inspiring ways.
... we are increasingly comfortable stretching ourselves collaboratively and imaginatively to deliver in ways that are revolutionising the research industry
The effort that our people put into fundraising captures the spirit of what it should mean to work at Kantar. This is even truer when tragedy strikes. We are so proud of Kantar Japan, where in the aftermath of the tsunami, through terrific commitment and collaboration, and despite the challenges to fieldwork and delivery, Masanori Miyajima and our team in Japan maintained business as usual and kept our clients serviced.
As I look back on 2011 there isn’t a single pitch or piece of work that stands out, or a particular day or meeting, but more a feeling that we are increasingly comfortable stretching ourselves collaboratively and imaginatively to deliver in ways that are revolutionising the research industry.